20150316 I booked a flight with Etihad Airways. This is what happened next…

RQID 290687
13 March 2015

Dear Mr Morris

Thank you for your response.

Please allow me to assure you that we take all feedback very seriously, and your correspondence was no exception to this.

Mr Morris, I am sorry that you continue to remain unhappy with our responses and we have not been able to meet your expectations. However, as stated on my previous correspondences, we do not offer miles as a matter of course, and we believe the offer of 20,000 Etihad Guest miles to be a generous one. Therefore, I regret to advise you that we are unable to offer you an upgrade.

In light of the forgoing, I have to draw this case to a conclusion and now regard this matter as closed; I will not be in a position to correspond further.

I trust the above clarifies your concerns and our position on this matter.

Yours sincerely,

[name removed]

Guest Relations Officer
Etihad Airways
The National Airline of the United Arab Emirates

I have not bothered to point out that I did not actually ask for an upgrade although I did hint that a single sector upgrade might resolve the problem. After all, it’s gone far beyond the original issue and has now become a war of attrition over long-term appalling treatment by the airline and a complete failure to understand the scale of the trouble their decision caused.

Nor, incidentally, have I pointed out that the mail can be summarised as “you should be grateful: we treat everyone else even worse than we’ve proposed we treat you.”

There is one thing: at no point have I had any indication that this matter has been reviewed by anyone in a senior position. So far as I can tell, the original decision and the way it has been dealt with has been contained below senior managerial level. Is there a cover-up at junior levels? Is there no internal reporting so that all complaints are reviewed by senior managers? Is there a management culture that says that they only want to hear good news and bad news should be buried? I don’t know but something isn’t right.

And I wasn’t a “Guest” which is the term Etihad uses for its customers. I was, in effect, Etihad’s prisoner for 8 hours able to do only as they instructed.

The UAE should be entitled to be proud of its national airline. But, as anyone can find out by am internet search, or even scanning the airline’s Facebook or Twitter feeds, my experience is far from unusual. Instead, the UAE should be concerned that its national carrier is bringing the country’s name into such disrepute.

It’s a simple ethical and moral position: if you mess up, make it right, even if it costs you. Don’t crow about your successes and hide your bad behaviour by ignoring your victims. Do not act in bad faith by making an offer that you know has no value to your victim. And don’t treat your victim as if he’s in the wrong, or is a nuisance.

The most important point is that there was no actual underlying problem: we were all disadvantaged because of an operational decision by Etihad management who were then unwilling to review the situation and to find a way to resolve it without inconvenience to a dozen passengers. I’ve no idea if any of the others have persisted in their complaints. If anyone knows someone who left LHR on 8th December for KUL and got dumped in Abu Dhabi, then tell them about this note. They, too, might like to press their claims.

Etihad could have avoided the whole problem by simply undoing the decision to leave us and rushing the bags round or even by delaying the onward flight by a few minutes so the bags could be transferred. That few minutes may have been caught up anyway because of the same tailwinds that brought us in from London on time. And they could have diffused the situation by at any time in the process having a manager available instead of junior staff whose attitude, in person and in e-mail, is to shrug and say, in effect, “that’s how it is. Get used to it.”

I’m not going to get used to it. And nor should you.

If you want to to be able to trust an airline to honour its commitment to get where you are going, when you expect to be there and if you expect your airline to be efficient and courteous and co-operative when things go wrong, then don’t fly Etihad.


(update: after this appeared, a manager contact me. Within 24 hours, the situation was resolved to my satisfaction and, in fact, ground crew at KLIA helped me out with an unrelated issue that arose out of, wait for it, a short transit time when I arrived from Hong Kong, raced through the airport to catch the Etihad flight back to the UK).

© 2015 Nigel Morris-Cotterill
All rights reserved.

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